The Peer Mentoring Program at AU uses upperclassmen as mentors to help incoming freshmen and transfer students get acclimated with the campus.
All incoming students participate in a service project during orientation weekend, which helps students get to know their peer mentors and other newcomers to the campus. “I think it helps calm the nerves of incoming freshmen,” said Lisa Horst, director of first year experience at AU.
There are 27 undergraduate students hired on as mentors. Each is given 15-17 students to watch over with the help of one faculty member per mentor. Of those 27 mentors, three work with transfer students, one works with honors students, and one oversees all mentors with Horst.
In order to get new students comfortable with being on campus and the way things work here, mentors schedule one-on-one meetings, group activities, and weekly emails that encourage involvement in dorms and other aspects of student life on campus. “This is the first time away from home for some of them,” said Horst. “We try to get them involved with something.”
Horst said that the one-on-one meetings are usually in Mocha Joe’s for a half an hour or more depending on the student and the conversation being had. “You’ll find different times throughout the semester where all the peer mentors are doing their one-on-one meetings in Mochas,” said Horst. Some students may not have declared a major yet, need help with financing or want counseling. “Peer mentors are there to guide them,” Horst explained. “They may not know where those resources are on campus.”
All freshmen are required to enroll in the liberal arts courses during their first year at AU. Horst said that freshmen are enrolled in LART 1050 for the fall and LART 1100 for the spring semester. “In the fall we’re very concerned with getting them acclimated to campus resources, but in the spring our involvement is a little less because we’re trying to let them go a little bit more,” Horst added.
The AU website says that the LART 1050 First Year Seminar, which is offered in the fall, is built around AU’s five core values that are used to help with a newcomer’s experience at AU. These values are integrity, excellence, servant leadership, responsibility and generosity. The core values were put in place to help introduce new students to AU’s pursuit of the social, personal and spiritual aspect of the typical student’s education.
The LART 1100 Liberal Arts Seminar that is offered in the spring focuses on encouraging the student’s engagement in the curricular and co-curricular life of the campus. It is designed to help students develop skills with critical thinking and communication, intellectual growth, academic success, and encouraging participation in church and events on campus.
Horst said that during the semester, peer mentors may sometimes help to teach the course and help students in the class with a service project. Faculty may even invite students to their house or to go bowling.
Transfers and honors students may not have to take the LART courses, depending on how many credits they transfer in, but peer mentors still work to connect with these students. “They have to do extra connections outside of class to get to know these individuals,” said Horst.
By assigning new students to peer mentors, AU is able to build upon its community by getting new students comfortable with campus life. “Peer mentors are there to help get new students through their first year,” she said. p